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This southwest chicken recipe is sure to please all the eaters in your house. It’s easy, healthy, freezer-friendly, and full of flavor but not spicy. You can bake it or–even better–grill it!
These Southwest Chicken Tenders take main stage in our Southwest Chicken and Bacon Wraps and Southwest Chicken Burrito Bowls recipes. However, we’ve also learned that they are delicious on a salad or a chicken sandwich. There are so many ways to use them.
How to Make Southwest Chicken Tenders
Just check out how easily this southwest chicken recipe comes together…
Ingredients in Southwest Chicken Marinade
As a mom of three younger kids, what I love about this marinade is that it’s so very flavorful but not too spicy. The resulting meal is a home run with all ages.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Avocado or olive oil – Use a fairly neutral oil keeps things moist without an overpowering flavor.
- Apple cider vinegar – Cider vinegar adds a delicious twist on the acid component but white vinegar will work.
- Fresh chopped cilantro (or parsley) – Adds a pop of green and fresh flavor. Use dried parsley (half the amount) as a sub.
- Chili powder – Smoky, subtle heat from ground chilis. Flavor can vary between brands.
- Garlic powder – This pantry staple adds big (and convenient) garlic flavor that rounds out the whole marinade.
- Ground cumin – Love this smoky yet not spicy addition.
- Dried oregano – Crush in your hand before adding to release the oils in this dried herb.
- Salt – A must in any chicken marinade.
- Ground black pepper – Gives a little bite. Add more if you’d like.
- Optional: Red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper – To add a little more heat, if desired. I usually opt for this!
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Can I Use a Different Cut of Chicken for this Marinade?
Yep! We know our readers love versatility. The marinade will work for almost any cut of chicken. You can use it on:
- Chicken breasts
- And, of course, tenders
Can I Freeze Southwest Chicken Tenders?
YES YES YES! This recipe is one of my go-to freezer meals. It’s so easy to scale up and make multiple batches at once.
How to Freeze:
Combine all ingredients except the chicken tenders in a gallon-sized freezer bag, seal, and shake/massage to combine the marinade. Then add in the chicken tenders, seal tightly, and shake/massage again. Freeze.
How to Thaw and Prepare:
Place the frozen chicken in the fridge and let thaw for about 24 hours. If you need your chicken defrosted sooner, use one of these safe thawing methods. Then, cook immediately (so you don’t over-marinate the chicken) according to one of the methods below.
How to Cook Marinated Chicken Tenders
The two best ways to prepare southwest chicken tenders are:
Cooking Method #1: Grill It
Grill chicken tenders over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes per side. Chicken is done when there is no longer any pink inside or it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. (source)
Cooking Method #2: Bake It
Bake at 425°F for about 15 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking time. Chicken is done when there is no longer any pink inside or it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. (source)
How to Serve Southwest Chicken Tenders
Here are some ways to use your chicken tenders:
Serve them in Southwest Chicken and Bacon Wraps. This is my personal favorite, and I make it all the time for groups.
Use in Bowls
Use it for Southwest Chicken Burrito Bowls. We love this option because everyone can personalize their own bowl.
Use on a Sandwich
Turn it into a chicken sandwich like the Gourmet Grilled Chicken Sandwich.
Add to a Salad
However you serve it, be sure to double and freeze a batch for later. Your crew is going to love this southwest chicken recipe!
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- 1/3 cup avocado oil or olive oil
- 1/3 cup apple cider or white vinegar (Gluten-Free: Make sure your vinegar is gluten-free.)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
- Optional: a pinch of red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper (to add a little heat)
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders
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Make It Now:
- Combine all ingredients except the chicken in a large zip top bag and shake/massage the bag to combine the marinade. Then add in the chicken tenders and shake/massage again. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
- Place bag in a dish and set in the refrigerator. Let chicken marinate for 2 and up to 24 hours, occasionally turning the bag to evenly distribute the marinade. (Do not marinate longer than this.)
- Cook the chicken tenders using one of the following two methods. Chicken is done when you cut into it and there is no more pink or it registers 165°F internally. Do not overcook.
- Option 1: Grill the Tenders: Grill chicken tenders over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes per side.
- Option 2: Bake the Tenders: Preheat oven to 425°F. Bake on a sheet pan for about 15 minutes, flipping half way through.
Freeze For Later: Follow Step 1. Seal and freeze.
Prepare From Frozen: Thaw using one of these safe thawing methods. Cook the chicken according to Step 3.
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